The media steps up: a blundered photo-op

I just finished an article for the next issue of Adbusters called "Unmediate yourself." It's inspired by Harper's contributing editor Thomas de Zengotita's book Mediated as well as those amazing moments during Hurricane Katrina when Shepard Smith, Geraldo Rivera, and Ray Nagin exposed cracks in the facade of mediation. I omitted the NOLA stuff because I thought it would be too dated by the time the year-end issue comes out. But seeing politicians and reporters drop their feigned authority, admit that "perspective" and "objectivity" (as if there is such a thing) are roles they regularly played really influenced a piece that, in the end, calls for personal vigilance in seeing through the elaborate, expensive, and complex unreality machine that makes up a lot of what we see on TV, from Fox dramas that ostensibly exist to sucker us into watching commercials, to the many photo-ops created to prop up George W. Bush's flaccid image.

Since Katrina, though, there seems to have been a sea change, at least in the news end of the media. The same folks who clamored aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to assist in passing off the "Mission Accomplished" myth and who dutifully covered the "town hall" campaign events populated only by the Bush faithful are now, thankfully, seeing through the spin. Maybe the media just want to be on the winning team (and Bush/Iraq ain't it). Yet it's remarkable that the AP wrote this of today's presidential chat with the troops (before describing deputy assistant defense secretary Allison Barber's prepping—or fluffing—of the troops):
It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.
NPR aired the rehearsal, saying it "offered some insights into the meticulous nature of advance work," and CNN called it a "highly choreographed video hookup" and said it "pulls back the curtain," (video here). Prior to the event, the White House billed the event as unscripted and spontaneous, which, of course, is bunk, prompting the question: who's going to lose their job for sending out the rehearsal on a satellite feed? (As Brian Springer's amazing 1995 film Spin, constructed entirely from satellite feeds of candidates prepping for live news segments during the 1992 election, shows, it's a fairly common occurrence.)

On Monday, the Los Angeles Times began a story with a hilarious (and fitting) lede:
President Bush strapped on a tool belt today and pounded nails at a home-building project for Louisiana hurricane victims, as his administration announced new steps intended to improve the recovery effort.

Before starting his brief work shift, Bush verbally hammered critics who have accused him of staging politically motivated "photo ops" in the hurricane zone instead of staying in Washington and drafting a comprehensive recovery plan...

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